Lots of people ask or assume with every foster dog that we will keep him or her. They also frequently comment that they could never foster because they would get too attached. I thought I would share some of my fostering secrets as well a little about the fostering experience so hopefully some of you will try it too.
First, never consider keeping the dog as an option. Realize the dog belongs to the rescue and not to you-consider it more like pet sitting for a friend. That's probably the most generalized way to keep from getting attached. For us we have a three dog limit. Plus I typically have a very specific dog in mind when I am looking for our next dog. Most of the time the foster dog does not meet that criteria. I tend to only foster dogs that meet that criteria when I am actually looking for a dog-hence Zodiac and Lyric. Also I do dog sports with my dogs and time and money limit how many dogs I can reasonably deal with in that regard!
Many rescues or shelters will work with you on what kind of pet they place with you. Foster homes are hard to get so one that is limited to a certain age, sex, etc is better than nothing. They will usually also take into account your training experience and lifestyle to get you an appropriate foster pet. Many rescues don't take in pets with aggression problems due to the safety of the foster family and their pets and the liability of adopting these animals out so this is usually not a concern.
Most rescues provide medical care but the ones I have worked with did ask the foster home to provide food for the pet. One rescue we worked with provided an appropriate sized crate for us to use as well. As a foster home our general responsibilities include crate and house-training, basic obedience and manners, using any opportunity we have to socialize the pets with other people and animals and evaluating the dog for tempermant and personality so we can write a bio. We also try to get good picture to post on the website. Different rescues will have different rules but I'm guessing most are pretty similar.
When choosing a rescue you could choose a breed rescue you are interested in, an overflowing local shelter or other group. Possibilities are endless. Personally I would choose a rescue that actively promotes their dogs-typically this means via website and petfinder as many people look for adoptable pets online You want to make sure you don't get "stuck" with a dog forever that isn't being advertised. I also choose rescues that thoroughly screen the new owners. I don't want to invest time, money and emotion into a pet that will end up being left tied to a tree with no medical care the rest of it's life. Time of fostering can vary widely but is typically 3 weeks to 3 months.
Personally, I think there are lots of benefits to fostering. Seeing a dog taken from a bad situation and ending up in a home that loves and adores him or her is a great feeling. Watching the dog learn to love, trust, play and enjoy life is truly rewarding. Fostering for an all breed rescue gave us the opportunity to live with all different types of dogs. Although most were dogs we would never normally choose for ourself it was still fun to have different ones around. If you choose to foster puppies you can get a permanent "puppy fix." Watching them play with toys and our other dogs can provide hours of free entertainment as well. But mostly, you are giving a dog a chance to have a great life when he otherwise wouldn't have.
However, be prepared for potty accidents, a few sleepless night of crate screaming and all the other stuff that goes along with adding a new dog to the household. Sometimes it goes smoother than others but usually there are at least a few days of adjustment depending on the dog and the home situation.
I would recommend everyone give fostering a try. Even if you have never adopted a dog and never plan to, it's one way to help homeless animals without making a lifelong commitment. And it can help you see how wonderful rescue dogs can be-if you didn't already know!
Before you choose a group to volunteer for these are the things I would ask
Who is responsible for vet bills, heartworm, flea prevention and food?
Are crates provided?
Who is responsible for transportation to vet visits?
Who takes dogs to meet potential adopters, do they only meet the dog after they have been approved, and who handles the actual adoption process?
How are adopters screened/what is the process?
How are the dogs promoted/advertised?
Are there any restrictions such as can the dog be boarded or traveled with?
What are the expectations as far as training/socialization?